la rotta (tarot)

Early representations of the Wheel of Fortune tarot card (

“In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called La Rotta (The Wheel). The Wheel of Fortune was a very popular allegory during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and many images of it can be found.

In the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, the card depicts Fortuna, blindfolded and winged, turning the spokes of a large wheel clockwise. At the top, on the most precarious position, sits a ruler who has the ears of a donkey to show his foolishness. The word Regno (I reign) is written next to him in a sort of speech bubble avant la lettre. A man with a tail is descending the wheel with the word Regnavi (I reigned) written next to him, while an old man has fallen down and squirms below with the words Sum sine regno (I am without reign). Finally, a fourth figure climbs the wheel eagerly; the word next to him reads Regnavi (I shall reign).

On the Rosenwald Sheet, the card has been heavily damaged, but we can see that the wheel is now shown turning counter-clockwise and that the figure at the bottom has been transformed into an animal. The figure of Fortuna seems to have been left out. On the Cary Sheet, only half of it is preserved: the wheel is again turning counter-clockwise and we can now see a large handle that is left uncontrolled – the wheel is only rotating because of their own doing.

In the Tarot de Marseille, La Roue de Fortune (The Wheel of Fortune) is one of the most intriguing cards. Like The Moon, it shows no human figures: instead, there are bizarre animals dressed up in skirts and capes, crawling over a wheel that is turning counter-clockwise and in some decks appears to float on waves. A “sphinx” with a little sword and crown sits above. The figure who has fallen from the wheel in other decks has been omitted. As on the Cary Sheet, a large handle is left untouched, as if the creatures are bound to the wheel and incapable of taking control (or unaware of this possibility).”

Meaning: “the twists of faith and life’s unexpected changes. You may be very busy in certain areas of your life and experience an emotional rollercoaster, or you could be feeling lucky and seeing new opportunities arise around you.”

Victory of Mercy or Mercy of Victory. You choose.


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